Tips and Tricks: Teaching Action Words

What is an action word?  Another term for it is a verb.  Action words are things that we can do.  They are an important part of communication and language. 

For receptive language (what we understand), action words are important for following directions.  Important examples: sit down, stand up, line up, get your shoes, STOP! 
These are all action words. If children don't understand these terms, it can cause problems in all settings (at home....they might be less independent, at school...they might not be able to follow instructions, and in the community...they might not be as safe).

For expressive language (what we say, in whatever manner we communicate), action words are important for communicating what we need and want.  Important examples: help me, give me something, need hug, go potty, etc.
These are all action words. If children don't understand these terms, it can cause problems in all settings (at home....they might not be able to tell parents what they need/want, at school...they might not be able to communicate with peers and teachers, and in the community...they might not be as happy and successful).

How do we teach these?  Well, videos can help.  Some children, particularly those with autism, do well with video modeling.  There are some examples of play script videos below and many others on youtube (just be sure to watch them first to make sure they are appropriate):

Another way to learn is by looking at pictures.  Click the picture below for a full color one page poster of action words here:

Click the black and white version below for a free coloring page version: 

You can work on action words throughout your day at home and you can also work on them with a speech-language pathologist or a teacher.  At home, you might model language for your child, saying "I'm putting on your socks!"  "Let's walk down the hall." "We are eating hot dogs tonight!" 

You can also work on action words by looking at books with your child and reading with your child.  

Here is a list of books that target action words: 

Action Words by Elizabeth Hepler (that's me!)
What are they Doing?  by Molly McIntyre
Go Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman
If you were a Verb by Michael Dahl
If You're Happy and You Know It by Jane Cabrera

Action Words is available for print as an interactive/adaptive book (with velcro pieces, which are very engaging for young children and children with autism) on Teachers Pay Teachers.  
This is what it looks like assembled.  I love using adaptive books with my children at work and at home. I find the pieces very engaging.  For a long time, I felt that I didn't want to put books together.  Over time, I realized children are really hard on books.  It is actually pretty helpful to have the pdf file to recreate parts of it if a piece gets lost or goes into a mouth.  

There is an e-book version on Boom Learning.  It is also interactive and can be played on an ipad, kindle, computer, or other device with internet access.  This is great for distance learning, teletherapy, and children who enjoy working with electronics.  

Lastly, games are great for teaching action words.  This can be a made up gross motor game (running, climbing, walking, scooting, crawling, jumping, etc.) or a digital version like the one below.  It is available on Boom Learning.  

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